Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
4-H Youth Development
4-H is the nation’s largest positive youth development organization, and provides programming that allows youth to explore their interests while fulling developmental needs of experiencing belonging, achieving mastery, and learning independence and generosity. In this way, 4-H programs help youth develop into contributing members of society.
Camden County 4-H utilized in-school programs in 5th grade classrooms, out-of-school club meetings, our 4-H military partnership with Kings Bay youth and teen centers, summer programs and district and state events to impact the youth in Camden County by improving communication skills, teaching life skills, encouraging STEM engagement, and building positive relationships. Over 700 youth were served in these programs.
Camden County 4-H also partners with other local and state organizations to offer specialty programs and community service opportunities to the youth in our programs. We started our Fishing Club and partner with our local state park and DNR Coastal Resources division to offer youth in this program opportunities to explore their local coastal ecology and learn about sustainable fishing practices. They perform meaningful community service while attending club meetings that positively impacts their community.
Camden County 4-H also responded to community requests for a Project Shooting Awareness Fun and Education (SAFE) BB team by working with Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) leaders, county government, and community partners to provide a Project SAFE BB club for Camden County youth. With a collaboration between all parties involved, the Camden 4-H ‘Hot Shots’ BB team was developed and continues to evolve.
Local county government officials helped to secure the club’s practice location at the newly opened, county-operated gun range. 4-H staff communicated the need for experienced volunteers to high school NJROTC rifle team leaders, and the leaders recruited volunteers from the parents of children on the rifle team. One set of parents agreed to become SAFE certified coaches and lead the club, and another parent agreed to become a screened volunteer. The 4-H agent also recruited an experienced screened volunteer with the county program to become SAFE certified and help lead the club.
The 4-H agent and head coach worked together to establish a list of needed equipment for practice, and were able to procure a donation of materials worth approximately $400.00 from Lowes to cover building target stands, target lighting, and equipment storage through a contact at the county government. County government also provided contact for local businesses that wanted to support the program. Two local businesses donated funds totaling $1,600.00 to be able to assign a BB gun to each participant and fund other program needs.
An interest meeting was advertised and parents were invited to come and learn about the program. Twenty-five parents attended the meeting. Of those parents, three signed up to become SAFE certified and 4 more signed up to be screened volunteers with the local 4-H program. Those that attended spread the word to friends and family, which resulted in three more families joining the program.
24 youth registered for the program. Practice was scheduled weekly, and ran January-April for the regular season. 12 youth participated in the district qualifier and two qualified for state competition.
In summary, Camden County 4-H was able to begin a SAFE BB club for youth by collaborating with a variety of local organizations and individuals. The new club allowed 24 youth to experience a sense of belonging, practice the important life skills of teamwork and community service, and offered opportunities to increase their concentration skills. This club also offered caring adults a way to actively give back to a program in their community in meaningful ways, and donating over 200 hours of their time to this program.
Agricultural and Natural Resources
The Camden County Extension office offers many agriculture and natural resources services to local clientele. The office offers soil, water and plant analyses through the university’s laboratories, as well as in-office and on-site consultations on issues such as pond management, lawn health and maintenance, gardening issues and strategies, water quality, and land use decisions.
The Camden County Agriculture and Natural Resources Lunch & Learn Program continues to provide an annual series of virtual programs. The virtual programs began during the pandemic and proved to be a successful way to provide impactful educational programming for clientele. Additional information about this program can be on our website page Lunch & Learn Virtual Programs.
Additionally, the Georgia Green Landscape Stewards certification program provides educational resources that teach Georgians about protecting natural resources, increasing plant and animal biodiversity, conserving soil and water, providing wildlife and pollinator habitat, and improving public and environmental health. After learning about sustainable land management practices, participants can measure their own activities with the program metric scorecard and earn certification status for their landscape.
According to a report published by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as of 2012 4.6 million acres in Georgia were allocated to developed land. Developed land is the fastest growing land use category with acreage more than doubling between 1982 and 2012. As we face global crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss and water shortages, the choices we make in our individual landscapes have a significant impact on our local and global ecosystems.
Utilizing funding from a mini-grant from the Center for Urban Agriculture at the University of Georgia, Camden County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Jessica Warren and Northeast Area Water Agent Martin Wunderly worked to create a statewide sustainable landscape program in which clients could learn from educational modules at their own pace, implement practices in their landscapes and evaluate their landscape practices for recognition. Participants must reach a minimum score of 70 points on the scoring metric in order to certify their landscape. Educational and scoring metric components include composting, mulching, pollinator habitat, welcoming wildlife, water conservation, water quality, stormwater, invasive species, native plants and biodiversity. Certification is free and participants have the opportunity to purchase an attractive yard sign that designates their property as a Georgia Green Landscape. The program is open to all Georgia residents and businesses. Clients can navigate the program on their own or through the leadership of their local extension agent.
Since the program launched in March of 2021, 130 landscapes in 36 different counties have been certified through the Georgia Green Landscape Stewards Program. Most participants achieve roughly 33 sustainable practices per landscape. Some of these practices are easier to put a quantitative value on than others. For example, the benefits of implementing sustainable actions from the Green Landscape checklist for “Protecting Water Quality”, “Stormwater Management”, and “Water Conservation” components include improved water quality, reduced flooding, and increased groundwater supplies. Implementing Georgia Green Landscape water conservation methods can provide a 10% reduction in annual stormwater amounts and annual community benefits of $1,000 per acre of sustainable landscape in the form of reduced infrastructure maintenance, improved water quality, reduced flood damage, and environmental protection (based on a Center for Neighborhood Technology economic analysis). Based on average property sizes of 1 acre and 127 certifications to date, this resulted in savings of $127,000 annually to local governments. In addition to community benefits, individual property stewards saved $100 - $300 a year on landscape irrigation needs by reducing outdoor water use by up to 50%. This amounts to $38,100 in annual water use cost savings for the 127 certified landscapes.
There have been more than 3572 views of program educational components through the program’s YouTube channel, and more than 3892 unique views of the program website Georgia Green Landscape Stewards.
Master Gardener groups have been especially excited about the program and promoting it in their local communities. Master Gardener Extension Volunteers have utilized the program for continuing education credits, and have used the presentations as talks for their local speaker’s bureau. To date, the Georgia Green Landscape Stewards Program has created 3583 face to face extension contacts across the state. In addition to residential landscape certifications, there have been several church and public demonstration garden certifications. Educational components were also offered as a live webinar series following the program launch. Evaluations from the webinar series stated that 100% of respondents had an increase in knowledge due to the series. The program has received much positive feedback from clientele including the quotes below which also help document behavior changes due to the program. One client responded: “I just wanted to say that I thought the program was really well done. The videos were both informative and interesting, and the scorecards were a great tool for assessing key practices. I’m hoping the yard sign will help serve as a form of advertisement, since the concepts in this program are extremely important.” Another shared: “This was a great all-around series. I learned so much about the full picture of native gardening - from the best plants to how to compost, conserve, water, etc. Totally enjoyed it and would highly recommend. Many thanks to Jessica and Martin.”
Family and Consumer Sciences
Although Camden County does not have a Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agent based in the county Extension office, we strive to assist local residents with their questions. Common questions cover food safety, food preservation, dealing with mold and mildew, healthy meal planning, nutrition, family budgeting, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) resources and more. These issues and others are answered through a wide variety of free UGA Extension publications available at the county office and phone conferences with Family and Consumer Sciences agents from surrounding counties. Neighboring FACS agents often conduct programming that our county residents are welcome to attend. This year there have also been many virtual opportunities for training and participation regardless of the client’s location. Our office can provide information about programming in surrounding counties.